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March 29, 2019

Lost in Florence

L'autenticità di luoghi intatti, lontani dal caos quotidiano

Dazzled by the marbles of Santa Maria del Fiore, thunderstruck by the glow of the Palazzo Vecchio brickwork, it is easy to lose your way, and to recover it, in an unexpected way in Florence. Turning a corner may take you into another world, another time frame that will shake your emotional center of gravity and introduce you to an extraordinary experience. Suddenly, you will find yourself in a parallel dimension, breathing the air of the mundane reality that has always accompanied the glorious art and beauty of the city, the air of daily life through the centuries.
Leaving Piazza della Signoria behind you, the Chiasso dei Baroncelli provides momentary isolation from the crowd in an evocative urban setting. It connects Via Lambertesca with Piazza della Signoria and is named for the powerful Baroncelli family. It was also known as Chiasso dei Lanzi, with reference to the 200 tough Lanzichenecchi soldiers that Cosimo I chose for his personal guards, lodged in this area.
There is also the Chiasso del Buco, named for an ancient osteria below street level, thus the name that meant “a hole”, where historical personalities of Florence such as Lorenzo il Magnifico, Michelangelo and Leonardo enjoyed good wine. It was no scandal that a gentlemen of Florence might stop in a wine shop or osteria and, later, sing its praises in his verses; however, the Vicolo dello Scandalo (or del Panico) introduces the climate of internal power struggles of the Middle Ages. The Cerchi and Donati families, who lived in neighboring houses, hated each other and it was feared they might attempt to breach the walls of their enemies at night. In the interest of peace and as a sign of reconciliation, an alley dividing their palaces and Piazza dei Donati (also known as La Corte dei Donati), with the house where Dante Alighieri lived, were created. Intrigue and passion are condensed in the name of the Via dell’Amorino, as witnessed by Niccolò Macchiavelli who found the inspiration and setting for his La Mandragola in this street.
If you are not yet lost in the depths of history and legend, even after passing through the Via delle Serve Smarrite [Lost Slaves Street], halfway between Piazza della Signoria and Piazza Santa Croce, once a gathering point for women from the countryside looking for work who often “lost their way” in this vicinity, you might do just that in the “other” Florence, the city of artists and traditions. Between the Lungarni and Piazza Santo Spirito, you will find the Via de’ Coverelli (or “Chiasso Perduto” [Lost Alley] because it was dark) and the palace of the same name, an example of classic Florentine architecture. How about the Via del Campuccio, which skirts the Torrigiani garden, the largest private green area in Europe in the heart of Florence? The name of the street harks back to the area of cultivated fields and vegetable gardens that occupied the area until the nineteenth century when the Marquis Torrigiani transformed it into a garden of art and botanical species. The streets that surround Piazza Santo Spirito tell many stories like Via dei Velluti, a tribute to a family of rich merchants that handled precious velvet fabrics from the fourteenth century. Then there is the minute Via Sguazza (also called Chiasso Guazzacoglie [Puddle Alley] because of the stagnation of rainwater) next to Palazzo Michelozzi where Monna Lisa, immortalized by Leonardo Da Vinci, was born. Both face Via Maggio, the street of the antiquarians of Florence. The Via Toscanella, which connects Ponte Vecchio to Palazzo Pitti, takes its name from the scientist, Paolo Dal Pozzo Toscanelli, depicted in a painting by Ottone Rosai, an important Italian artist of the 1900s. This street has been a home to art since the Renaissance, when intellectuals, writers and architects such as Brunelleschi and Vasari met under the loggia.
Climbing up the ramps toward Piazzale Michelangelo, the panorama appears in all its evocative magnificence. A hilly road will take you to the area of Costa San Giorgio, named for the church dedicated to St George and full of works by Giotto. Here, art and history are concentrated: Giovanni Duprè, the sculptor from Siena, lived at number 84, while Galileo Galilei peered at the heavens from number 28. Via dell’Erta Canina is a street with a strange name, which however merely refers to the steep inclination that leads down to the Arno river. It is a very old road and was used as a shortcut toward Siena and Rome from the 1800s. Although very tiring, it does offer a unique view of the hills and an enchanting scenario as it winds among the fields and walls of splendid villas. This was a favorite zone among Florentine painters of the 1800s such as Borrani, Signorini and Lega. You may lose your way among the streets, lanes and alleys of Florence, but you will take in the air of other times and come away with your heart full of emotions and pure beauty.  

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